China Power

The Rise of China’s Nanjing Military Region

The Nanjing Military Region has become a major source of PLA Air Force leaders.

Bo Zhiyue
The Rise of China’s Nanjing Military Region

General Ma Xiaotian during a 2012 meeting with then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Credit: DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

The location of the headquarters of the Nanjing Military Region must have good fengshui — those who are fortunate enough to have stayed here for any period of time in the past have good prospects for future promotions.

For instance, Song Kun, political commissar of the Nanjing Military Region Air Force and deputy political commissar of the Nanjing Military Region since December 2011, is very lucky. He was awarded the rank of lieutenant general in less than two years (in August 2013) and was promoted to deputy political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force within three years (in July 2014).

His successor, Yu Zhongfu, is even luckier. Yu became political commissar of the Jinan Military Region Air Force and deputy political commissar of the Jinan Military Region one year after Song assumed a similar position in the Nanjing Military Region. As soon as he succeeded Song as political commissar of the Nanjing Military Region Air Force and deputy political commissar of the Nanjing Military Region in July 2014, Yu was awarded the rank of lieutenant general. Exactly one year later, he was promoted to Beijing, not as a subordinate or a colleague of his predecessor but as his boss! He replaced General Tian Xiusi as political commissar of the PLA Air Force in July 2015.

What is more interesting is that General Ma Xiaotian, incumbent commander of the PLA Air Force and a member of the Central Military Commission, has also served as commander of the Nanjing Military Region Air Force and deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region. He held these roles from December 2000 to July 2003, before his promotion to deputy commander of the PLA Air Force.

One of Ma’s successors, Yi Xiaoguang, is now being groomed to be the future commander of the PLA Air Force. Born in 1958, Yi became commander of the Nanjing Military Region Air Force and deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region in December 2010 at the age of 52. In two years, he was awarded the rank of lieutenant general and transferred to the General Staff Department as assistant chief. He was further promoted to deputy chief of staff in July 2014. As the youngest lieutenant general with a background in the air force, he is a good candidate to be China’s next commander of the PLA Air Force.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

He is likely to enter the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee in two years and to become a member of the Central Military Commission in his capacity as commander of the PLA Air Force.

We seem to be living in the era of the Nanjing Military Region. If you’re looking for the future military leaders of China, that is a good place to start.